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All of Finland's war cemeteries and fallen soldiers in the WarSampo online application

Open data of all of Finland’s casualties in WWII compiled in a unique semantic web application.
Events of the Memorial Day of the Fallen in Joensuu on 19 May, 1940. Photo: Defence Forces' Photographic Centre SA-photo archive.

The WarSampo application combines the information, photographs, press articles, wartime diaries, historical maps, and other material related to the fallen heroes and war cemeteries of the Second World War into a unique online application. The underlying linked open data includes 12 million connections between over 1 million pieces of information and it is the first of its kind in the world. The system aims at promoting peace: the more we know about the price of the war the less there will be wars in the future.

WarSampo is a data service and a semantic portal that brings together important national information concerning the Winter and Continuation Wars in the form of linked open data. The service combines the information of some 100 000 Finnish soldiers with 160,000 authentic photographs taken at the front, tens of thousands of war diaries, press articles, historical events, maps of Karelia, and other materials in the web service.

The first version of WarSampo was made public two years ago, and the most recent online application was opened 22 November 2017. It amassed over 21,000 visitors on the very same day. WarSampo has already also engaged the public to give feedback and provide their own information, for instance about the correct number of children of their deceased relatives in the war.

The application features richly interlinked “homepages” of all the 95,000 Finnish war casualties of war and cemeteries, created automatically based on linked data harvested from the databases of various Finnish organizations. Finland's more than 600 war cemeteries were systematically mapped out for the first time for the new WarSampo with the help of about 2,400 photographs, taken by 280 photographers around Finland. Web pages were produced for each cemetery for use in the new application, with information on the fallen heroes laid to rest there. The application makes it possible for people to do research on the victims buried in the cemeteries of their own municipalities or villages with the help of various visualisations, to seek information and pictures of fallen soldiers of one's own family or home region, and to learn about their wartime routes and places of death on maps.

A total of 95,000 Finns were killed in the Winter War and Continuation War. Marshal of Finland Carl G. E. Mannerheim ordered that they must not be buried at the front, and that the bodies should be brought home for burial regardless of military rank, which is very exceptional internationally.

“Data concerning war cemeteries is also being used in another project posting honour guards at heroes' graves as part of the Finland 100 anniversary programme. On our Independence Day 6 December, the graves of 20 cemeteries will have a person of the same age as the deceased was at the time of death standing guard,” says Professor Eero Hyvönen, of Aalto University and the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities HELDIG, a leading figure in the project.

In the summer of 2017 WarSampo was awarded the international LODLAM Challenge Open Data Prize in Venice.

WarSampo is a cooperative effort of Aalto University, the Finnish National Archives, the Defence Forces, the National Land Survey of Finland, the Association for Military History in Finland, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, and the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities HELDIG. Funding for the work has been provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Remembrance Foundation of Fallen Soldiers, the Association for Cherishing the Memory of the Dead of the War, and the Academy of Finland. The war cemeteries were photographed by member organisations of the League of Finnish Camera Clubs around Finland. The new application has been funded by the Memorial Foundation of the Fallen. The project is part of the Suomi Finland 100 programme.

Contact:

Professor Eero Hyvönen
tel. +358 50 384 1618
[email protected]

More information:

WarSampo portal  http://sotasampo.fi/en/

Short video https://vimeo.com/212249404

Project homepage: https://seco.cs.aalto.fi/projects/sotasampo/en/

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